Please include with your submission brief biographical notes.

Perfect. Just a brief line or two about myself. Should be easy.

Hm.

I know almost nothing about myself. Isn’t the whole point of writing to avoid self-reflection by outsourcing your insecurities to fictional wizards? I’ll take a line from the bio currently sitting on my website.

George Edwards Murray lives on the coast of Maine with his fiancée.

But if the market publishes my story, there is a good chance that by the time it goes to print 1) my fiancée will be my wife and 2) we may no longer live on the coast of Maine, so already I’m living a lie.

George Edwards Murray lives a lie.

This is the ultimate test of self-promotion. Condense my essence into 50-75 words such that readers of this story will flock to my other work. Surely, if I can write a story worthy of publication, then I should have no problem crafting a bio that is succinct, clever, and serves as a suitable endnote for the reader curious about the mind behind the work. This is a coda, an epilogue. The hard work is already done!

George Edwards Murray lives in a fetal position under his desk.

This is tough. After the reader’s eyes savor the pity and heartbreaking final line of the story, they will inevitably look for information about the writer. A poor bio will cast doubt on the quality of the story, making a reader question their enjoyment of the piece knowing it came from a shambling wad of incompetence haunting a dark corner of New England.

George Edwards Murray is a shambling wad of incompetence from New England. He apologizes for this misguided foray into the world of literature.

Good, good. Honesty is the best policy.

The other problem is the matter of my other publications.

George also retroactively apologizes for any other contributions he has made to the field of literature which the reader may accidentally happen upon.

I see other writers out there with witty, clever, charming biographies. They seem like fun people. Their pictures usually show them smiling near plants or coffee cups. They wear tasteful sweaters. They talk about their hobbies and their pets. My hobby is surviving the work week. Also my cat hates me. So what can I say?

George Edwards Murray…egggghhhh, you know what? Never mind. Forget I said anything.

Am I even a writer? Who even wants to know? The issue of writing my biography has slowly morphed into a complete dissolution of my sense of self.

George Edwards Murray wonders if he has earned the right to use his middle name or if it’s just too pretentious.

No.

NO.

This has gone on long enough. I’m done being awkward about my bio notes. I won’t apologize for using my middle name. I won’t be to ashamed to talk about myself.

George Edwards Cathcart O’Houlihan George William Chester Murray will use as many names as he damn well pleases. And why do you even need to know so much about him? Huh?

And who’s to say I won’t have more credits by the time publication rolls around? I make some assumptions.

New York Times best-selling author George Edwards Murray published over 200 short stories and 17 novels.

Seems reasonable. Needs a little more, though.

He is one of the founders of the letter ‘⊕’. He receives five cents any time anyone uses the word “akimbo.” He once saved an orphanage from foreclosure through the strategic use of an umlaut.

Perfect.

I send off the submission. Three weeks later, the response comes back:

Please include a brief description of the process of writing the story.

George Edwards Murray lives in a fetal position under his desk.

Rating: Highly Recommended

A small town in Japan is beset by spirals. What starts as strange vortexes in the clouds and wood soon evolves into something much more sinister, as the townspeople become obsessed with the shape, transforming their society and even their bodies in worship of the spiral. Flesh and soul is twisted in horrific ways as the spiral ingratiates itself in all aspects of village life. People are transformed, mutilated, and driven insane by the shape. In the end, the town is completely destroyed, the populace is monstrous, and nothing remains beyond a promise that the spiral will endure. Such is the plot of Uzumaki, a comic series penned by Junji Ito.

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Below is a transcript of the speech I gave as the Popular Fiction representative of the Stonecoast MFA graduating class of Summer 2017.

Thank you Justin, Robin, Matt, Dean Tuchinsky, and all the family and friends who have come out here tonight.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about Hell.

I have this theory about Hell, I believe that Hell exists on Earth, not in one location, but as a collection of bounded areas that flit in and out of existence, little bubbles of ultimate suffering popping up all over the world in locations and designs of our own making. The BMV. Improv sketch comedy shows. And certain social events, where people find out that I write, because it means I get asked the absolute worst question in the world. (more…)